A young female journalist suffering from a rare genetic condition that was hardening her heart as if it was turning into stone is smiling once again after undergoing a successful transplant.
Sara Vietez, 27, who lives in Cangas, in the north-western Spanish province of Pontevedra, in the Galicia region, was diagnosed with a rare genetic heart disease known as ‘stone heart’. Her father, who was not named, suffered from the same condition and despite undergoing a transplant, he died of organ failure in 2013.
Shortly before his death, Sara and her brothers underwent genetic tests in order to find out if they were suffering from the same disease. Sara tested positive, as well as her brother, while her other two brothers tested negative.
The nature of the disease meant that the symptoms could begin to show at any time with very little forewarning.
Sara, who studied journalism and is currently studying for a master degree in management said during an exclusive interview with Real Press: “I lived like a normal girl, working while studying as if nothing had happened, as my heart was working as if everything was completely normal.”
She explained that her lifestyle at university was like most people’s with a lot of parties, not enough sleep and an unhealthy diet.
Sara said: “People told me that I was going to collapse at some point, and that is exactly what happened.”
Last year, her health deteriorated quickly and she was hospitalised after her resting heartbeat hit 180 beats per minute – a normal resting heartbeat is typically between 60 and 100 beats every minute.
That is when Sara said: “I stopped smoking, drinking and consuming caffeine. I started to have a healthy diet with a lot of vegetables, more protein and less processed food and I started to do exercise for four or five hours per day.”
She added that since leaving the hospital and changing her lifestyle she has lost 10 kilogrammes (22 lbs) in weight and feels considerably fitter.
Despite the healthy lifestyle, in December (2020), her heart began to act up again and she had to stop playing sports and hiking.
She explained that initially, she could not process the fact that she was ill: “I had a disease but I was not acting like an ill person.”
However, she released that her ‘stone heart’ condition was serious this February when the doctors told her she would need a heart transplant.
Sara only had to wait 45 days before receiving her new heart, a short time in comparison to her dad who waited over two years, and on 7th April she underwent the life-saving operation.
She said: “At 11.36 pm on 7th April, the old heart stopped beating, and at 12.06 am the new one started to beat.”
Now, she is recovering from the transplant and the surgery and is extremely happy with the operation as she believes this was the only way she could live a healthy life.
Following the surgery, she spent time in intensive care where she was only allowed to have contact with her mum. The recovery process is long and will take around three months before her life is back to normal.
Sara said: “My immune system is weak so I do not have defences, I need to take care of the food I eat, my personal hygiene, and avoid large groups of people as just the normal flu or a cold could really damage me.”
Despite the short-term complications, she is optimistic about the future and cannot wait to get back to exercising, hanging out with friends and travelling. In the past, she was always working and now she hopes to find time in the future to travel the world.
For now, she is planning to walk the Camino de Santiago because “it is like a challenge that will show how fit I am and if I can go back to doing whatever I want again.”